Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

In today’s gospel Jesus heals a man with leprosy. In the time of Jesus leprosy (Hansen’s disease) was the worst disease anyone could have. It not only deprived the victims of their health, covering them with ugly scabs and ulcers, and attacking their muscles and nervous system; it also deprived them of their personal dignity, for it meant that they had to be isolated. One of the worst things that can happen to a human being is to be rejected to feel unloved, un-wanted and abandoned. Next Wednesday we celebrated St. Valentine’s Day and this celebration underlies a very important part of our lives, we yearn to feel wanted, and loved. We all like to feel a sense of belonging; we like to feel we are important in someone’s life. There are many people out there who feel ostracised, left out in our society. There are people whose relationship has failed, there are people who feel worthless and useless, there are people who have got a raw deal from God and society; there are people who are put down at school, in society, etc. A first year student at University College Dublin told me that he passes by thousands of fellow students every day but he feels totally alone in the college. Rejection is probably the most hurtful of all emotions. It makes a person feel worthless. To a child, rejection by his parents is equivalent to death. The elderly fear rejection more than all their infirmities together. I remember an old lady telling me on one occasion that she had just come out of hospital after surgery and she had to go to the shop to get her messages. She said: you would think with so many siblings that one of them would give me a hand’. Visiting another elderly person on one occasion I found her very upset because her daughter had gone on a break and did not drop in to say goodbye. When we reject (ostracise) people we are in effect treating them as lepers. The lepers’ worst suffering was not the leprosy itself but the pain of being rejected by everyone. There are people in our society today who are marginalized because they feel unheard, unloved, and unwanted. We must never assume that just because we are amongst people that it follows automatically that there is sense of belonging. There are many people out there today who have to call inot a radio show for someone to listen to them, or to pay a therapist to air their problems. Have we become a society of the paid listener? Are the rest of too busy to listen on a totally human basis? We as human beings need to talk and be listened to, it is not an illness, or a problem, it is natural, but is there anybody listening? An excuse that we often hear today, I have no time. We have no time to pray, no time to visit friends and relatives. Jesus may not send us a Valentine’s card but he has written a book of unconditional love for every one of us. He accepts us for who we are despite all our failings. When people accept us for who we are (not because of our money or status) it makes us feel unique and it one of the loveliest things that can happen to us. As followers of Jesus we should learn to accept others and to reach out to those who are suffering the pain of rejection. Let’s sow seeds of hope, cheerfulness, joy, and happiness in this world that is overwhelmed by a constant flow of depressing news and events.